WPIX general manager Fred Thrower is tossing around an idea — a televised Christmas Eve Yule Log set to a holiday music soundtrack to warm the living rooms of fireplace-deprived New Yorkers.
A month later, a WPIX crew is at Gracie Mansion, shooting the first version of the log — a 17-second loop — that will become the first ever televised Yule Log on at 9:30 p.m. Dec. 24, 1966.
So move over roller derby — and so long $4,000 in ad revenue. A holiday tradition was born, and it’s an instant hit.
For 23 more years, viewers would tune in as presents were opened and friends gathered round.
1989 turned out to be what was intended to be its final airing, and copies of the log became bootleg must-haves.
The 1990s were “the dark ages,” as viewers lamented how Christmas in New York was just not the same. But one of those viewers, Joe Malzone, decided to do something about it, and founded a Web site in which he encouraged petitions to Channel 11 to “bring back the log.”
Just a few months after Sept. 11, a scarred city would learn the effort was successful.
Christmas was complete again. This year, the log has been expanded to three hours, with the complete 1973 soundtrack assembled with the help of music historian Lawrence “Chip” Arcuri.
The log has spawned many imitators, and now seem to be a permanent part of U.S. holiday culture — available on the Web, in high def, and even on iPods. Thrower, it seems, did the right thing in pre-empting roller derby that night in another New York.
Note: Repurposed from piece published by this author in amNewYork